Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas 2010


Christmas week was busy and bittersweet. In the course of four days we said goodbye to Laurie's Dad, hosted Laurie's side of the family on Christmas Eve and my side of the family on Christmas Day. No matter the reasons, it was very good to be with family and friends during this Holiday Season.

Liduvina Perez and Linda Contreras

Liduvina is our daughter-in-law Vanessa's mother and Linda is my baby sister.

After the memorial service for Laurie's Dad, Bill Gardner, on Wednesday, many who attended came back to our home to offer support and tell great stories about Bill's life.

They were all greatly appreciated.

Dylan Moore and Jenn Contreras

Together they explore the wonders of the cell phone. Dylan is a bon vivant/gadfly about town, while Jenn is our daughter-in-law.

Dylan's Grandmother, Debi Murphy,
and Laurie

Family and friends. . . family and friends. . .

The Gardner side of the Family
on Christmas Eve
Lyndsay, Brian, Amy, Craig and Andy

Sisters Gayle Hicks and Laurie Contreras

Florene Gardner doing Parlor Tricks

Don't play with your food!!!

Zany is a good word for this group. . .

. . . Exhibit "A"
My brother-in-law David Hicks

Christmas Goodies

The "Who is the Shortest" Line
Sarah, Amber, Amy, Gayle and our winner. .
LAURIE CONTRERAS

Our niece Lauren Wintroath with our daughter-in-law Vanessa

Christmas Day and more zaniness.

My Sisters
Linda Contreras and Marilyn Wintroath

Jenn and her bold husband,
Andrew Contreras

Michael Contreras as the
Ghost of Christmas Future

Two GREAT Holiday Chefs

Marilyn Partakes

Lorenzo is Lauren's beau,
Marilyn and John Wintroath

The Contreras Kids

My Mom, Chuny and my Aunt, Katica

Chuny, Andy and Jenn Contreras

Mike and Vanessa Contreras

Laurie and George Contreras

Mike Contreras' latest autobiography

Next up, a trip to San Diego for the Holiday Bowl game between Nebraska and Washington. We only lost to the Cornhuskers by 35 points back in September.

GO DAWGS!!!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Blogpost #1,000!!!


One Thousand. . . that's a lot of blogposts indeed!


On Friday, I had the privilege of presiding as a Deputy Commissioner for Civil Marriages at the wedding of our good friends Ben Todd and Krystal Garcia.

This was the fourth time that I've been asked to officiate a couple's special day. It never ceases to amaze me how honored I feel to be a part of a couple's wedding ceremony.

Ben and Krystal were married at the beautiful little chapel in Oxnard's Heritage Square.

Ben was on time for once,
where's Krystal?

Ben making his Vows to Krystal

No surprise here, he was quite eloquent while she was very passionate.

Mr. and Mrs. Todd

The Wedding Cake complete with two AWESOME Dia de los Muertes
wedding figures

A toast to Ben

The Wedding Cake First Bite Exchange

They were very civil with eachother during this tradition, which can become warlike at some weddings.

Good luck to two
very nice people!!!


Meanwhile, back on the football front. . .

The high school football season in California finally came to a close as the teams from northern California won four of the five State Bowl Games over the weekend in monsoon conditions.

2010 California State Championship
Bowl Game Results

Open Division
Concord De La Salle (14-0) 48
Anaheim Servite (14-1) 8

Division I
Palo Alto (14-0) 15
Corona Centennial (14-1) 13

Division II
Folsom (14-1) 48
Gardena Serra (14-1) 20

Division III
Escalon (14-1) 30
San Diego Madison (12-2) 14

Division IV
La Jolla The Bishop's School (14-0) 40
Stockton Brookside Christian (12-1) 14

Meanwhile, back in Sweden, the NorraSkåne newspaper ran a Johan Hammarqvist article on the equipment that we are shipping to the Hurricanes. You can read the always interesting English translation at:

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Bill Otis Gardner


Bill Otis Gardner
1926-2010
1942 Los Angeles Polytechnic H.S. Parrots'
Single-Wing Quarterback

Bill was Laurie's father. He was a strong willed, opinionated and principled man who passed away on Wednesday, December 15th due to heart and pulmonary issues.

Though small in stature, he was an intimidating presence to me as an 18 year old boy beginning to court his daughter back in 1965.

His love and devotion to both of his daughters, all of his grandchildren and his wife, Florene, was always evident to me.

I mentioned his principles, Bill was a staunch Republican and a USC fan which, of course, was a constant source of somewhat good natured friction between us over the years. On the day he died, he still had a Ronald Reagan for President bumper sticker proudly displayed on his car!

The very last thing he asked me to do for him on the day he died was to take a bunch of his USC Trojan memorabilia which had been moved and replace it to its true place of honor at the top of a bookshelf that he could no longer reach. His request came with that little smirk he could muster anytime I had to do anything USC related for him.

Bill was quite a guy and we are all going to miss him, I just hope Ronald Reagan doesn't ask him for his opinion on anything.

Brazil Nuts.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Time to Catch Up


I have been neglecting the blog since Thankgiving, so let's do some catching up . . .

Camarillo Sunset

We are getting a lot of incredible sunsets this time of the year.

To wrap up the high school football season, the team that knocked us out of the C.I.F. Playoffs, Arroyo Grande H.S., really had a magical run after beating us 27-20. The Eagles would go on to defeat #2 seed Dominguez and #3 seed Chaminade before losing to undefeated Serra in the Western Conference Championship game. Serra is widely regarded as having more major college scholarship athletes on their team than any other high school in Southern California.

2010 C.I.F. Western Conference
Playoff Results
Semifinal Games
Serra 41 - Paso Robles 23
Arroyo Grande 52 - Chaminade 19

Championship Game
Serra 35 - Arroyo Grande 10

In California, we do not have a State Championship Playoff system. Instead, at the end of the season the best five teams from Northern California are arbitrarily matched up against their counterparts from the South based on enrollment and perceived strength.

Serra, who won our 2010 Western Division Playoff Championship and was the 2009 Division III State Bowl Game Champion, is currently riding a state best 29 game winning streak. They were picked to represent Southern California in this year's Division II Bowl Game.

2010 California State Championship
Friday and Saturday, December 17-18
at the Home Depot Center
in Carson, California
Northern California School Listed First

Open Division
Concord De La Salle (13-0) vs. Anaheim Servite (14-0)

Division I
Palo Alto (13-0) vs. Corona Centennial (14-0)

Division II
Folsom (13-1) vs. Gardena Serra (14-0)

Division III
Escalon (13-1) vs. San Diego Madison (12-1)

Division IV
Stockton Brookside Christian (12-0) vs. La Jolla The Bishop's School (13-0)

On the college football front, the Washington Huskies finished on a strong note, knocking off UCLA, California and Washington State to finish the season at 6-6 and bowl eligible. Our prize is a trip to the Bridgepoint Holiday Bowl in San Diego on December 30th against 10-3 Nebraska. This is Washington's first Bowl game since the 2002 Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, a 34-24 loss to Purdue.

The Huskies played the Cornhuskers back on September 18th in Seattle and were barely beaten by Nebraska 56-21. This time we get them on a neutral field!

We'll be there rooting on the Dawgs to victory!

Also this Bowl season, Johan Hammarqvist's West Virginia Mountaineers (9-3) will play the North Carolina State Wolfpack (8-4) on December 28th in Orlando, Florida in the Champs Sports Bowl.


California Lutheran University, with very strong Scandanavian ties, recently celebrated St Lucia's Feast Day complete with young ladies sporting long, lit candles in their hair. For more information, click on:

Ben and Krystal, Cute Couple

We continue meeting with friends on a regular basis at Cronies Sports Grill in Camarillo. We are blessed with so many good friends all over the world as it turns out!

If it's December,
it must be Autumn in Camarillo!

We set an all-time record in Camarillo last Sunday, 88ºF = 31.1ºC for a high temperature. Still no snow in the forecast for us.

Occidental College

Last Thursday, I drove down to the Eagle Rock, the home of the Occidental College Tigers, to visit with some of their seniors and talk about the process of going to Europe to extend their playing careers.

Occidental Final Exam Study Time

I wonder if students were laying about like this studying on the grounds of Lund University in Sweden on December 9th?

Senior Tigers

We met for over an hour and had a good exchange of ideas, I really hope that they follow through!

The young man in the back row is Rocky Ciasulli. He is the Tigers' Wide Receiver Coach and a great source of Euro-knowledge for these players. Rocky has spent the last three springs playing football in Finland, Italy and Switzerland. He is going back again this spring to Germany I believe he said.

Good guy.

Donated Football Equipment

A BIG thank you to Laurie and her sister Gayle for helping me set up this picture that Johan Hammarqvist requested for an up-coming article in the NorreSkåne sports page.

Once again, the Hässleholm Hurricanes of the Swedish American Football Federation asked me to collect gear to help expand their program. This year the focus was on smaller sized gear to help equip the 40 or so young players who have turned out for the Hurricanes two proposed youth teams.

A total of 14 Ventura County high schools and two sporting goods companies responded to our request and donated helmets, shoulder pads, jerseys, pants, hip pads, thigh pads, tail pads, knee pads, face masks, chin straps and helmet repair kits!

TACK SÅ MYCKET &
THANK YOU!!!

Another Camarillo Sunset

Well, that about does it from sleepy Camarillo for now,
HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving Weekend 2010


Laurie's cat Brigit

While her cat may not be into the Holiday Spirit, Laurie certainly is! Thursday was that most American of all holidays, Thanksgiving Day. Our family stretched it out into a four-day weekend affair and we had a wonderful time with family and friends. This is a wonderful holiday in my opinion as families and friends gather to rejoice in giving thanks for all of life's blessings.

The first stop on our magical mystery tour was my mother's home in San Marino, California.

My sister Linda

Linda is the star of any Thanksgiving Day feast at our ancestral home. She is the main chef who consistently comes up with memorable meals but she is wise enough to dole out chores to each of us to make her life somewhat easier before we sit down for dinner at 3:00 p.m.

Our niece Lauren Wintroath and
our daughter-in-law Vanessa

They were busy setting up the table and doing anything that Linda needed.

Michael and Laurie

Mike is wearing a matching chef's coat to the one adorning Linda, I have no clue where he got it. As we got closer to dinner time, he and his mother broke out into a spontaneous dance.

Move over Fred and Ginger.

While Laurie was busy carving
the turkey . . .

. . . I was mashing the potatoes.

Meanwhile, my mother, Chuny, and my aunt Katy were busy looking at my Camino photos on my computer

Table for ten, please!

Mike got artsy with the camera

Vino Tinto from the Rioja Region of Spain

PERFECT!!!

Family Photo

Mike, Vanessa, Katy, Linda, Chuny, my brother-in-law John Wintroath, Laurie, Lauren and my sister Marilyn Wintroath

Michael seriously into the
Spirit of Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Day was so great that we opted to do it all over again on Friday at our house in Camarillo with Laurie's side of the family!

Our niece Amy Hicks with Vanessa

I was so excited to hear that Amy, a student at Chapman College is going to go on a three week tour of Italy (Rome, Florence and Venice) this spring as part of an Art History class . . . AWESOME!!!

Our nephew Scott Hicks and Michael

Scott is a student at Northern Arizona University. Happily, he seems to be enjoying college life to the fullest.

Harry Potter dropped in for some yams

No, this was not my plate!

Laurie's sister, Gayle Hicks cleaned her plate

Master Chef Laurie Contreras

Laurie did a great job again today in the kitchen. That is Gayle's husband David on the right of this picture through a wine glass.

The day also included the presence of David and Gayle's daugther Lyndsey and her husband Craig McKenzie, as well as our niece Sarah Gardner and her beau John Tidwell.

We were even able to SKYPE our nephew Tim Hicks in Poland where he is studying to become a doctor.

GOOD TIMES INDEED!!!

What would Thanksgiving be without FOOTBALL???

On Thursday, the Lions and Cowboys both lost as usual.

Friday had tons of great college games including #1 Oregon (11-0), above, beating # 20 Arizona (7-4) 48-29.

Second ranked Auburn (12-0) trailed # 9 Alabama (9-3) 24-0 before making a ridiculous comeback and winning 28-27.

The nation's #3 Boise State Broncos (10-1) were derailed 34-31 in overtime by #19 Nevada (11-1).

Johan Hammarqvist's West Virginia Mountaineers (8-3) broke out some really ugly "combat" uniforms but they played beautifully in beating Pittsburgh (6-5) 35-10.

Friday night was high school football night. Here are the results of Rio Mesa's playoff division.

2010 C.I.F. Western Conference
Quarterfinal Playoff Results
Serra 40 - Camarillo 7
Paso Robles 35 - Inglewood 21

Chaminade 37 - Atascadero 19
Arroyo Grande 17 -Dominguez 7

2010 C.I.F. Western Division
Semifinal Playoff Games
Friday, December 3
Paso Robles (10-2) at Serra (12-0)

Saturday, December 4
Chaminade (11-1) at Arroyo Grande (10-2)

It was good to see Arroyo Grande, the team that knocked us out of the playoffs last week, beat the #2 seeded Dominguez Dons. We lost to a very good team.

On Saturday, I got an early morning call from Brian FitzGerald about going for a hike . . . GAME ON!!!

The Santa Monica Mountains it was

We opted to drive to Newbury Park and embark on what would be an 8.37 mile hike through Big Sycamore Canyon to the Pacific Ocean.

The Trail Head

My Camino walking stick, hat and backpack
were MUSTS!

Ice on the trail, BRRR!

I'm telling you, it was cold in the canyon this morning, it was only in the mid-50s!

A cool, ancient oak tree

Watch out for the horses!

There were lots of Big Sycamores
in this long canyon

When I finished the Camino de Santiago last September, many people wondered why I had no desire to press on for three more days to Finisterre, the so-called "End of the Earth," where Spain meets the Atlantic Ocean.

The reason was simple . . .

I live only 15 minutes from my own Finisterre

This is the spot where our hike through Big Sycamore Canyon meets the Pacific Ocean.

Quite nice don't you think.

Mugu Rock in the distance

Saturday evening, we went to my in-laws house to watch the USC Trojans (7-5) lose to Notre Dame (7-5) 20-16. It was a rather dull offensive game but it was fun to watch it with Laurie's dad Bill Gardner, a diehard USC fan, and his wife Florene. We were also joined by Sarah Gardner, John Tidwell and two delicious pizzas!

Throw in a little root beer and we had the perfect ending to another great day in SoCal.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!